Stirring the simmering ‘designer baby’ pot

From genetic and genomic testing to new techniques in human assisted reproduction, various technologies are providing parents with more of a say about the children they have and “stirring the pot of ‘designer baby’ concerns,” writes Thomas H. Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, in a commentary in Science.Murray calls for a national conversation about how much discretion would-be parents should have. “Preventing a lethal disease is one thing; choosing the traits we desire is quite another,” he writes.He discusses public hearings two weeks ago by the United States Food and Drug Administration to consider whether to permit human testing of a new method of assisted reproduction — mitochondrial manipulation — that would prevent the transmission of certain rare diseases and perhaps address some causes of female infertility. At issue is the safety of the technology, as well as its ethical implications.Mitochondrial manipulation creates an embryo with the nuclear DNA from the prospective mother and father (which contains most of the genetic material) and the mitochondrial DNA (containing 37 genes) from a donor without mitochondrial defects. Among the ethical concerns is that daughters produced by this procedure could pass down the mitochondrial DNA to their children. “Up to now, the United States has not allowed such genetic changes across generations,” Murray writes.He says that the FDA’s discussion is the latest development that “tapped into a simmering controversy over what it means to have a child in an era of increasing convergence among genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies.” Those technologies include preimplantation genetic diagnosis (genetic analysis of embryos before implantation via in vitro fertilization) and prenatal screening to detect health problems in the fetus, including the prospects of a blood test of a pregnant woman to screen fetal DNA in her blood.”Of all the possible choices prospective parents might make, sex selection for non-medical purposes has prompted the strongest policy response, “Murray writes. “It is prohibited in at least 36 countries, but not in the United States.” He notes that “conflicts over the legal and moral status of embryos and fetuses have discouraged American legislators from proposing sensible regulations, lest they be drawn in to the abortion debate.”The absence of federal legislation has left the regulation of sex selection up to professional societies. But they have different guidelines, reflecting “clashing ethical frameworks for thinking about parenthood in the genomic era.”Murray calls for a national conversation about current and emerging technologies shaping the choices that parents have, beginning with an examination by the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. “It will not be easy to avoid the quicksand of the abortion debate,” he writes, “but it would be a great public service to provide a sober assessment of the choices that would-be parents increasingly face, and to encourage a respectful dialogue about the meaning of parenthood and the worth of a child so that parents and children can flourish together.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The Hastings Center. …

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Former merchant seaman wins asbestos compensation

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2013 » 10 » Former merchant seaman wins asbestos compensationFormer merchant seaman wins asbestos compensationA former merchant seaman has been awarded a £38,000 compensation package after developing an asbestos-related health condition.Michael Hopekirk, 70, of St Leonards, retired in 2006 but was previously a skipper and engineer on merchant navy ships, according to the Hastings Observer.The pensioner claims when ships went out to sea in bad weather, he frequently breathed in asbestos and despite these risks, none of the people on board the boats were given masks or protective clothing.Two years after his retirement, Mr Hopekirk started to have breathing difficulties and was told he had developed diffuse pleural thickening in his lungs. This condition is common among people who were regularly exposed to asbestos in their working life.But now, just days before a court was due to hand down its verdict on whether his disease was the fault of his various employers, three firms he sued have agreed a joint settlement.Clipper Wondild Tankers UK (previously known as Crescent Shipping), Tower Shipping and Mardorf Peach came together to award Mr Hopekirk £38,000 in redress from extensive pain and suffering caused by their respective inaction on asbestos exposure.Mr Hopekirk’s lawyer and spokesperson said: “This was a difficult case because Mr Hopekirk worked with so many different companies and most of them were no longer in existence. It took considerable research to find the insurance details for the different companies.”If he had to do any repair work he had to chisel off the asbestos from the pipes in the boiler room which again caused asbestos to rise in the air.”A number of firms are being forced to provide compensation for former workers exposed to carcinogenic asbestos dust during their time in employment, but it is often very difficult to get money out of the responsible parties because many will have gone bankrupt or have gone through complex take-over processes.However, if a firm acquires a company found to have been liable of poor working practices, it legally assumes blame and must pay adequate compensation.By Francesca WitneyOr call us on 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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